How a Foster Dog Helped Me Find the Helpers

*Edited and reprinted with permission from the Boozy Gardener. Originally published April 2019.

January 2020 update: In class the past few weeks, we've talked briefly about how the world can be an overwhelming place. This blog from last year reminded me of another important lesson from Fred Rogers; when things are bleak, look for the helpers.

Let's have some real talk for a hot minute. One of the biggest challenges to finding peace and contentment is other people. To paraphrase the late, great Sam Cooke, what a wonderful world it would be if everyone was kind, thoughtful, etc. etc.

Some people just suck, though.

I have recently had several run-ins with suckage, but most of them are personal and minor (e.g. job annoyances that I have mostly overcome at this point in my life). There has been one issue that has been hard to forgive, though. This weekend, I adopted a foster dog: a German Shepherd I named Ophelia. It is clear the poor gal has been neglected and abused. She does not know how to go to the bathroom outside, crouches and begins crying at the slightest strict tone of voice, and I will simply show you what happens when she is left alone for a few moments:

Arguably, the pink chair looks better there.

While I have no way of knowing for sure, experience has taught me that Ophelia's early life went something like this:

1. Her humans saw a cute puppy; thought she was a German Shepherd so she could one day grow up to be a protector

2. Humans kept puppy in cage all day and most of the night; never trained puppy to go potty outside or perform simple commands (sit, stay, etc.)

3. When puppy grew into 50+ dog, it was no longer cute when she made a mess of the house

4. Ophelia was either given away to someone equally irresponsible or was simply dumped on a street corner.

The more I thought about the treatment of this poor animal (and thousands like her), the angrier I felt. What the hell is wrong with people? Don't they know animals are living beings--not objects to be acquired and tossed at a whim? How could I find these people and give them a piece of my mind?!

I took a deep breath and fought to remember one of my favorite pieces of advice from Fred Rogers: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping'."

Instead of the jerks who treated Ophelia this way, I thought of the people from my Rescue who had run to her aid. I thought about all of the people offering me house training advice on Instagram and Facebook. I thought about my BF coming over to help me tear out the stained carpets and replace them with tile.

My point is, there are a lot of jerks in the world. There's no avoiding it. It is not our place to judge them. If you cannot quite get yourself into that mind space, at least try not to let them drive you nuts. Remember to look for the helpers. You will probably learn (as I have) that the good really does outweigh the bad. It's just harder to find sometimes.

And, in the meantime, if you'd like to share some training tips for this new foster mom, feel free to post below! (Update: Ophelia found the perfect furever home just about a month after this post).

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